Sunday, November 2, 2008
Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
Ah…Santiago de Compostela – the final site on the pilgrimage to St. James Cathedral - or “Santiago’s Town”, as Casey likes to call it. Now THIS is Spain. Or at least this is the romantic image of Spain that we remember from previous trips, an image which led us to uproot ourselves and move all the way out this way. The guidebooks refer to Santiago as one of the more beautiful cities in all of Spain and they are absolutely right. Quite possibly the finest week of our adventure – one that has given us a moment to pause and reflect on what this trip is really about for us. Suzanne and I were vividly reminded of our trip through Extramadura many years ago, staying in the heart of old medieval towns, exploring the rich history, culture and cuisine that these towns have to offer. On some very good advice from our new friends Scott and Dee from Boulder (one of few American families also doing an adventure year), we booked an apartment right in the old town of Santiago. The week started off a bit auspiciously as we woke up the morning of our departure to torrential rains. Suzanne had heard that Santiago was one of the rainiest spots in Galicia and we were already growing weary of the rain in Javea. The prospect of spending a week’s vacation in even more rain while cramped in a small apartment with 3 kids sounded quite grim. The night before we had a wonderful dinner with our neighbors Richard and Carmen, and in true Spanish fashion, didn’t get home with the kids until almost 2 am! So needless to say, we were all just a bit cranky that morning. Fortunately, our flight worked out smoothly and to our surprise, we landed in Santiago under perfectly blue skies. How ironic that the town with 300 days of rain a year would be sunnier than the town which “claims” 300 days of sunshine! After the usual confusion that seems to be inevitable when trying to drive into a historic city center, we finally found our apartment and were once again pleasantly surprised. The apartment was huge, with 3 bedrooms, lots of open space and plenty of light. It was situated on the corner of a quaint little plaza right across from the Universitad Santiago de Compostela (yes, this is the real USC!) philosophy building and another apartment/hotel which once housed Ernest Hemingway. History was all around us and we were just a few streets over from the Praza do Obradoiro with its baroque and stunningly beautiful Cathedral. Our vision of living in Spain came to life, with shops and markets all around us selling local produce, cheeses wines and pastries (of particular note an almond cake called Tarta de Santiago) as well as wonderful, cozy restaurants with traditional Galician specialties. Oh and in spite of its touristic nature, it is seemingly empty of Brits and their EU expat counterparts. Seems like we have found our own little slice of heaven here in Santiago’s town!